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Tomato Jam and a trip down Memory Lane

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Every autumn, some primal instinct arises and I feel compelled to ‘put up’ my farm stand finds so that, as they shutter for the season, I’ll have a winter pantry of homemade tomato sauces and chunky tomatoes to put into pasta sauces or, at their simplest, just use for a pasta sauce all by themselves.  A couple of weeks ago, I showed you the collection of Heirloom tomatoes plucked from The Bridgehampton Florist’s Hampton Classic table.   I thought I’d outdone myself.   But darned if I wasn’t at the farm stand where I was confronted by a big basket of ‘culls’ – tomatoes not pretty enough for Caprese but irresistibly priced at $5.00 for at least a dozen. I also had an added incentive:  Our latest houseguests, Jill and Steven, had most thoughtfully given us an enormous Stock Pot –just perfect for canning.   I took my cull tomatoes home and pulled out my trusty “Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving”. Lo and behold, there was a recipe for Tomato Preserves.  Not only did its combination of sweet and spicy appeal to me, it conjured up all kinds of memories.


Readers of this blog will have no trouble remembering that my late Mother had little use for anything she could just as easily buy as make.  So it may astonish you to know that even she could not resist the lure of the canning kettle.  One of her great passions was Marmalade, Scotland’s gift to preserves. (Marmalade got its name because it was originally prepared for a sick Princess Mary by her French chef.  The name is derived from Marie Malade.  Whether we can ascribe Mary’s recovery to this orange concoction is uncertain. However the princess survived to become Mary, Queen of Scots.) I was in awe of my mother’s making preserves until I dug up her recipe which consisted of using a Crock Pot and cooking the oranges in it overnight.  Mother had finally found a way to cook in her sleep!  Still, this was not as easy as running down to the supermarket and corralling a jar of Dundee. But it had the distinct charm of costing a great deal less. And that alone would have sent my mother to the Ball Jars.
Cull Tomatoes…not as pretty
but every bit as flavorful.

Making this recipe for Tomato jam isn’t completely effortless. But it’s awfully easy.  You score an X on the bottom of each tomato, plunge them individually into boiling water for just 30 to 60 seconds, then plunge them into an ice water bath.  The skins slip off and with them most of the bruising that made them culls in the first place. Any excess can be peeled off with a paring knife.  Then I slit the tomatoes in half and, using my fingers, I pulled out as many seeds as I could. Meanwhile, on the stove a brew of sugar, water, lemons and a spice bag of ginger and pickling spice was boiling away Into this went the tomatoes. Then the mixture gently boiled for what seemed like a very long time—several hours until the tomatoes are translucent. But the cooking wasn’t over.  The preserves rest for 12 to 18 hours before one final boil and into they jars they go to be preserved.  They make a thoughtful and different gift. And they make a deliciously different spread on a toasted English muffin.  Here is the recipe:

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